Part 3 of 7 in my “Holy Week with Caryll Houselander” series. You can find all the posts in this series here.}
Jesus falling. I used to wonder if all this falling was necessary. He could have been crucified, died, risen, without the falling. This fortuitous humiliation. Wasn’t the crucifixion enough? Couldn’t that alone have paid the bill? Could we just spare the man a little bit of this all-consuming grief?
Yes, it could have been spared, certainly. Jesus is God. He did say He could have just called down his angels and stopped everything in its tracks.
But he didn’t. And he wasn’t an accidental man. There was a purpose for all that falling down. The humiliation. That total weakness of this God made Man. And Caryll shares her thoughts on that with us today.
Is not this the man who claimed to be the Son of God? Why, he is not even a superman, he is not even equal in stamina to one of those splendid young Roman soldiers who are prodding him with their spears to get up! After all he is just an ordinary man, like any other in that huge crowd milling around him!
Yes, Christ is living through the experience of ordinary men, of each and every ordinary man in whom He will abide through all the ages to come. He has not come into the world to indwell only exceptional men, or supermen. He is not here and suffering His Passion in order to be glorified in those who succeed where others fail, or to make Himself an exception to ordinary men. He has come to live out the life of every man, of any man who has any love for Him at all and tries to keep His word. “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them” (Jn 14:23).
The cross which Christ has fallen under is the cross that most ordinary human beings fall under, and that at the beginning of adult life; a material cross, the burden of the material struggle that nearly everyone must shoulder. This is the first fall, the first fall that each one of us knows, with the shock of it and the shame. Jesus takes the shock and the shame for us all.
There in Him we are watching ourselves today. There is the young man or woman taken by surprise by the violence of the first sudden onslaught of the temptations of grown-up life. There is the one who a little while ago, from the dream world of adolescence, welcomed the hardships and struggles of economic life in a spirit of adventure, tripped up by the first stumbling block of the materialism of the real world. There is that one who imagined that natural love alone could sustain a marriage on a meager wage, flung down by the first impact of grinding poverty for himself and his bride. …
Yes, Christ, prostrate there under the cross, lives through the humiliation and bewilderment of those who seem to fail at the start. those take suddenly and by surprise, who came out full of self-confidence to wrestle with and overcome the world, to overcome its materialism, its political and economic systems, its injustice, its hardships and its terrors, confident that they could set their feet in Christ’s footsteps, shoulder Hi Cross, and make the journey of life, only to find themselves tripped up in His first footprint.
That first fall is the first real self-knowledge. Now we know our weakness, we know our helplessness before the difficulties of life, our total inability to shoulder our responsibilities. We know that we cannot get up by ourselves, we cannot shoulder the burden for the second time by ourselves, we cannot face our own self-contempt or the derision of others, by ourselves. We realize now that we are wholly dependent on Christ, dependent on Him to act in us, to life Himself up in us and to life us up in Him.
Because Christ identifies Himself with us, because He suffers the humiliation of the first fall in us, His love transforms it. The very wound can heal us.